Inept voters disenfranchise the majority of Minnesotans
In the waning days of the Coleman-Franken Senate race, engaged Minnesotans understand that many aspects of the recount process, by which a winner was determined, were flawed. Debates continue over improperly completed ballots, the appearance of u...
In the waning days of the Coleman-Franken Senate race, engaged Minnesotans understand that many aspects of the recount process, by which a winner was determined, were flawed. Debates continue over improperly completed ballots, the appearance of uncounted absentee ballots, ballots allegedly counted twice, ballots rejected in error, ballots submitted late from counties to the state and more.
Some voters may have a difficult time understanding the intricacies of an election and recount process and their associated legalities, but voters in Minnesota see that in this case the recount greatly benefited the campaign of Democrat Al Franken while reducing to its final death throes the re-election bid of Republican Norm Coleman. For those who cast ballots for Sen. Coleman, the temptation is to lash out at the Franken campaign, but I would caution and advise against such reaction.
Not only does it appear the Coleman campaign lost in this election, so, too, did the people of Minnesota.
Improperly completed ballots were posted on the Internet so the electorate could "judge" what was being contested. I spent a great deal of time reviewing ballots, and I was quickly astonished and appalled. Some were so carelessly scribbled, botched, marked or unintelligible that my initial and only conclusion, had I been an election official, would have been to disregard all the ones I reviewed.
And therein lays the great injustice Minnesota experienced. Election carelessness operating within the toxic legal environment of voter intent silenced the clear voice of Minnesota in this Senate election. The effort to ascertain voter intent and to eliminate disenfranchisement of the few too inept to properly fill out a simple ballot (or too lazy to ask for assistance when filling one out), in the end, disenfranchised the majority of voters who cast their votes on time, in earnest and correctly. I believe it was the engaged and focused Minnesotan whose intent was trampled upon; his or her voice the one silenced and marginalized.
My sincere hope is that we as a state will, in the future, revise many of our voting processes. I desire to eliminate all ballots not submitted on time. Also, ballots incorrectly filled out could be immediately nullified for the race in which a voting error occurred. That is to say, if one botches a section of the ballot for a congressional race, their congressional vote would be voided while the rest of their ballot is counted.
These changes, obviously, would not be an end to what must be done to amend the process and reclaim future elections -- but they are a solid foundation on which to begin.
In our republic, our vote is the strongest voice we have. Those who would keep that voice must protect it and ensure its viability. Elections are the business of the people. We cannot allow the disinterested or inept among us to open the door for campaign attorneys, canvassing boards or even Supreme Court justices to decide our elections. We must take intelligent ownership of the election process and greatly tighten it at all levels so that dramatic, prolonged recounts and the whines of voter intent and disenfranchisement become things of the past.
John Hegstrom lives with his wife and two children in Duluth and is employed by a real estate management and financial firm.